Two weeks ago, the Post-Gazette called the race in the Republican Senate primary between businessman D. Raja and state Rep. Mark Mustio ugly. Turns out, Mr. Mustio was just getting started.
Since then, he has dragged an already mean-spirited contest into the gutter with a mailing so offensive that the Post-Gazette has no choice but to withdraw its endorsement of Mr. Mustio and recommend Mr. Raja instead.
Both conservative candidates -- Mr. Raja, 46, the former Mt. Lebanon commissioner and software company founder who ran unsuccessfully for Allegheny County executive last year, and Mr. Mustio, 54, an insurance company executive from Moon who has represented the 44th House District for almost nine years -- have employed the usual advertising smear tactics in their bids to succeed John Pippy in the 37th Senate District.
Mr. Mustio went further when he superimposed an image of the flag of India behind a photo of Mr. Raja in earlier advertisements and fliers. Although born in India, Mr. Raja -- like millions of immigrants before him -- came to this country as a young man, made it his home by becoming a U.S. citizen and founded a successful business here. He also earned master's degrees at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.
Mr. Mustio followed that up by crossing a line this week with an insidious mailing aimed at stirring up prejudices about Mr. Raja's foreign birth. Even though Mr. Raja is known simply as Raja or D. Raja in his business dealings, personal life and politics, Mr. Mustio displayed prominently his opponent's full given name --Dakshinamurthy -- in a campaign flier.
We don't buy Mr. Mustio's explanation that he used the long name because it appears on lawsuits in which Mr. Raja was involved. The subtext is clear. In fact, Mr. Mustio makes it even clearer in his newest, so-called positive television ad in which the narrator intones, "Mark Mustio. He's one of us, not a politician."
This breach of decency, this appeal to voters' base instincts, shows Mark Mustio to be a seriously flawed candidate who will stoop to racism to get elected. He's not one of us.
Although our apprehensions due to Mr. Raja's fuzzy answers on several issues drove our initial endorsement, this character issue trumps all. Besides, Mr. Raja is smart and would learn quickly in Harrisburg.
Mr. Mustio owes Mr. Raja an apology. Republicans owe D. Raja their support.
First Published April 21, 2012 12:00 AM